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Sugar - It's Everywhere!!

SUGAR – it has become public enemy number 1

And for good reason – sugar is everywhere and added to the majority of packaged foods to enhance flavor and texture, to increase shelf life, or, to basically trigger an addictive response. (More on that in a future blog!) For some of us (ok, most of us), we battle sugar cravings on a daily basis – it’s almost impossible to get it out of our system. Even though we’re focused on eating a whole-food based diet and minimizing the impact of sugar in our lives, there may be times when you need that quick grab from the grocery store – that’s right – some sort of processed food. Don’t beat yourself up! We all have busy lives and sometimes you need something quick.


Before you make that purchase...

It’s important to understand what’s in your food and to make an informed choice. It’s easy enough when you’re buying a bag of cauliflower rice or a container of blueberries. These items have a single ingredient – one that you recognize. But when we choose processed foods, such as salad dressings, yogurt, or even a rotisserie chicken, we need to understand what is in our food. We all love a good FD&C Red 40, right? Become a label reader and know what to look for.


In general, choose foods with limited ingredients with recognizable names (i.e., actual whole foods). Be on the lookout for sugar and all of its different pseudonyms. Dr. Mark Hyman mentions 257 different names for sugar in one of his blogs, some of which are easy to identify (if the name includes the word sugar, like brown sugar or powdered sugar, then you know it’s sugar). However, there are many other names that you might not be familiar with, such as:


1.       Agave nectar

2.       Barley malt

3.       Blackstrap molasses

4.       Brown rice syrup

5.       Buttered syrup

6.       Cane juice crystals

7.       Caramel

8.       Carob syrup

9.       Corn syrup

10.   Corn syrup solids

11.   Crystalline fructose

12.   Dextrin

13.   Dextrose

14.   Diastatic malt

15.   D-ribose

16.   Ethyl maltol

17.   Evaporated cane juice

18.   Florida crystals

19.   Fructose

20.   Fruit juice

21.   Fruit juice concentrate

22.   Galactose

23.   Glucose

24.   Glucose solids

25.   Golden syrup

26.   High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)

27.   Honey

28.   Lactose

29.   Malt syrup

30.   Maltodextrin

31.   Maltose

32.   Maple syrup

33.   Molasses

34.   Refiner’s syrup

35.   Rice syrup

36.   Sorghum syrup

37.   Sucanat

38.   Sucrose

(taken from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/56-different-names-for-sugar)


How much is too much?

If a food product does include added sugar in the ingredient list and you really want/need that product (i.e., you realize your rotisserie chicken is injected with sugar), choose products with no more than 2 g of ADDED sugar per serving. (This is much lower than the American Heart Association recommendation of 24-36 grams per day, which averages to about 5 g of added sugar per serving.) Better yet, choose products with 0 g of added sugar (which means they have less than 1 g per serving). And remember, sugar is sugar is sugar. Just because a product adds honey (instead of plain old sugar), that does not mean it’s actually good for you! It’s still added sugar and your body will react to it the same way as plain old sugar.


What about naturally occurring sugars found in fruit, vegetables, nuts, and other whole foods?

If you’re a label reader, you know that 1 cup of blueberries contains 14 grams of sugar! Isn’t that too much? The naturally occurring sugars in fruit come with water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other important micronutrients (the key word being antioxidants). Yes, we want to minimize how much we eat throughout the day, but these whole foods provide us with other important health benefits. In general, choose fruits that have a minimal impact on blood sugar (i.e., a lower glycemic load) and that provide the most nutrients. And don’t forget to watch serving sizes and always pair with a healthy fat and/or protein to minimize their impact on blood sugars.